Week Six – Issues Surrounding the Chiefs

This week Michael Ash discusses the failed Tony Gonzalez trade, Brodie Croyle's return, and what Larry Johnson's absence might mean for KC's offense.

I'm glad the Chiefs didn't trade Tony Gonzalez.

When April rolls around, perhaps flipping Gonzalez for a third-round draft pick will appear a better deal to me than it does right now. But to abruptly lose him halfway through the season, and the negative impact his absence would have on the offense, on Brodie Croyle, and on the Chiefs' fan base, a third-round pick hardly seems like fair compensation.

I didn't want my final memories of Gonzalez as a Chief to center around his behavior after the Denver game. His desire to be in Kansas City when he broke Shannon Sharpe's all-time yardage record was understandable, especially considering the revelation that, earlier in the week, Gonzalez had already asked Carl Peterson for a trade. Knowing that, Gonzalez may have thought the Broncos game would be his final appearance at Arrowhead.

Still, there's no positive way to spin his reaction, from the way he quickly left a locker room full of celebrating teammates, to the way he chose to go public with his frustration. There's really no denying that Gonzalez had his own interests ahead of the team's, even though everyone else on the Chiefs' sideline that day was focused on ending a 12-game losing streak.

But many great players, even ones lauded for their character and unselfishness, occasionally have such moments. Over the course of a lengthy career, those incidents are usually dismissed and forgotten.

Had Gonzalez been traded, however, that situation would have remained fresh in plenty of minds, and it would have left a sour taste in a lot of mouths. But now, over the course of the next 11 games, hopefully the memories of that incident will disappear as Gonzalez continues to play and helps the Chiefs try to put up a few more wins.

On the subject of Gonzalez's trade request, I've never understood the desire that some athletes have to "get a ring" by joining an already great team.

It's understandable why a player would want to have the experience of going through the playoffs and playing for the championship of his or her particular sport. But that's never what anyone says. You don't hear players simply say, "I want to know what it's like to be in the big game," they always seem to talk about how they finally want to win a title.

But how would it be satisfying to win a championship in that manner, when you're basically just along for the ride?

There's a plethora of examples that illustrate this point, but it's easiest to stick with Gonzalez. By all accounts, he was hoping to be traded to the New York Giants above any other team. His buddy Jay Glazer of Fox Sports even wrote a column about hypothetical trades, which just happened to start off by floating the idea of Gonzalez going to New York.

Prior to Monday's game with Cleveland, the Giants weren't only undefeated, they had the best offense in the entire league. And, of course, they're the defending Super Bowl champions.

By being traded in mid-season, Gonzalez would have been jumping onto a train well after it had left the station. He couldn't claim that he was the final piece of the puzzle, because the Giants already won a title without him. Had Gonzalez gone to New York, he would have essentially been hoping the Giants could successfully defend their title, and that they'd let him be part of it.

If all that had worked out, and Gonzalez won the Super Bowl, retired, and faded into the sunset, would he really have a feeling of accomplishment when he looked at his ring? Would the fact that his ring featured the Giants' logo instead of the arrowhead he wore on his helmet for most of his career make any difference in how he felt?

And how about the other side of the coin – what if it hadn't worked out for him? An athlete who stays on one team for his entire career is rare these days – and when that team isn't a particularly successful one, there's a certain dignity to it. If Gonzalez were to go to another team and still not get his ring, would it have been worth the try, or would he regret losing the luster of being a player who remained loyal to one team for his entire career?

Obviously, I don't have the answers to any of these questions, but I'd like to hear what the readers think.

Come Sunday, I might feel pretty stupid for saying this, but I'm looking forward to watching the Chiefs' offense against the Titans.

I'm willing to be naive and hope that the boring, predictable offense we saw Brodie Croyle execute against New England was supposed to be a one-time occurrence. The Chiefs were going into the lion's den against an angry Patriots team that went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl. They were matched up against the same type of 3-4 defensive scheme they struggled against in the preseason. They had a rookie left tackle getting his first taste of NFL action after missing most of training camp and preseason.

Facing those circumstances, it's understandable the Croyle-led offense, which flashed signs of promise during the preseason, wasn't put on display. When Croyle was injured, the offense the Chiefs had designed around him couldn't be utilized.

I'm hoping all that is true, although I'm not exactly holding my breath. But even if none of what I just said is actually the case, there's still reason for hope. Unless Croyle plays lights out for the rest of the season, the Chiefs know they have to address their quarterback position in the offseason. Possibly, even with their first pick in the 2009 draft.

With that in mind, what does Herm Edwards have to lose by finally letting Croyle go out there and play? Kansas City's coaching staff can't go into a shell to keep him protected, because that won't prove anything about his ability to stay healthy. The Chiefs can't keep handcuffing him with overly conservative game plans, with no threat of a downfield passing game, because it no longer serves any purpose.

Croyle has to use the next 11 games to audition for next year's job. If he proves he's the right quarterback to lead the Chiefs, that may help certain coaches keep their jobs. It's in everyone's best interest that Croyle be given the chance to play to the best of his ability.

Beyond that issue, I'm looking forward to watching the offense even more now that Larry Johnson has been benched.

The Titans have a great defensive line and a fantastic run defense, so it's doubtful the Chiefs will get much going on the ground.

As I wrote about after the Atlanta game, I think Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles are better equipped to make something out of nothing. When the going has been tough, Johnson hasn't been able to make much hay. If neither of the young backs can find any room to run, we'll just see the same thing we would have seen if Johnson had been in the game.

But with their speed and elusiveness, maybe one of the young running backs will be able to provide the team with a spark.

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